cover image Before This Is Over

Before This Is Over

Amanda Hickie. Little, Brown, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-35545-2

Hannah Halloran, the heroine of Australian author Hickie’s tense debut, worries that an insidious epidemic, which originated in Asia, has invaded her suburban Australian town. She begins stockpiling food and keeping her sons, teenage Zac and five-year-old Oscar, home from school. Hannah’s obsession with storing food and avoiding the public intensifies when the first cases are rumored to have occurred in a nearby town. Her husband, Sean, and her employer think she’s overreacting. When neighbors begin to die, others no longer doubt her. Under these circumstances, how does one cope with entertaining an active child or feeding a growing, whiny teenager, who eats as if supermarkets are still open and refuses to understand why he can’t use the Internet? Neighbors turning on neighbors is expected, but society is beyond broken when a family turns on itself. Hickie realistically depicts how isolation and the threat of disease affect one family, especially when electricity, water, and other services break down. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Mar.) This review has been corrected. An earlier version listed the wrong agent.